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I am conducting several usability tests this week on my sports website. The purpose is for me to find out any flaws in the design or any usability issues that may affect navigation and other factors.

During a research session, I found that it's not a good idea to lead the participant on by saying "did you notice X feature?" during the test. Would these sorts of questions be acceptable after the test is complete?

For example if I have a "contact us" button on the header of each page. But the participant didn't see it and instead clicked on several other links to reach the "contact us" page. Would it be good practice to ask why they didn't do it as intended, or is that something that I should try to conclude by myself?

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It's absolutely acceptable to ask the user about the experience, during debriefing. Here is a reading on running a usability test that mentions various approaches. This reading is from a very useful website….

Usability.gov is a practical resource for usability methods and templates.

A great resource

I believe it's government-funded.

Back to your question: if you're also planning to use a survey, such as the SUS, you might consider getting that out of the way before the debriefing questions.

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This can be unuseful in some cases. You can instead ask if the partecipant understood that he could accomplish a task using the specific way and if he understood that there was that specific functionality. In your case, you shouldn't ask during the test but you can go to the point in the follow-up.
During the test you can ask other things in order to understand which is the problem. for example: "do you notice the contact link?"[wrong] vs "where are you looking for the contacts? where do you think to find it? which are the interaction elements that attract your attention?"[good]. The answers could be:

1) "ah, I didn't notice the link!"-> the element is not enough visible
or
2) "I thought it would open a chat or a form. I hate chats or forms. I want to find the email address"-> the button is misleading and the subject hates some way to contact the organisation/support

In this way you can have further information about your research goal! ;)

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